LIVE REVIEW: Evolution Emerging (27.5.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Having long since outlasted its father festival, Evolution Emerging is now a major fixture in the North East calendar in its own right – and given the excitement from both performers and crowd members throughout the day, it remains a vital event for the local music circuit.

Even for Twist Helix’s early doors opening slot at The Cluny, there’s a considerable crowd already gathered. Those who made the trip down early were rewarded with half an hour of brutally efficient and finely realised pop: their new material is leaner and more direct than before, while Bea Garcia Cisneros combination of keyboard wizardry and vocal prowess makes for a magnetic performance.

After that, New Horror make a dramatic shift in tone, but certainly not quality. Introducing a new guitarist to the ranks this afternoon, the quartet line-up has lifted some of the fog of fuzz to let their none-more-gloomy melodies and piercing drum machine rhythms rise to the surface. It’s an impressive performance – especially given the suspicion that they’ve not yet explored the limits of what they’re capable of.

Apologies are next on the Tyne Bar stage, and unsurprisingly it’s packed out come stage time. Although they veer close to a local equivalent of the dreaded ‘super-group’, their intense and focused performance trades indulgence for visceral groove, their post-rock surges mutated and warped with a taste of trepanningly intense psychedelia.

After a (seriously lengthy – next time, maybe actually have some food stalls on the go to relieve the strain from the venue?) quest for tea, your writer dipped back in with Slow Decades at Little Buildings. Drawing a capacity crowd to the room, it’s something of a sweat lodge atmosphere, but that only seems to bring out the best in the band. Ben Lowes-Smith is a witty and engaging presence between songs, whilst their confident set-list – taken entirely from their recently released second album Hinterlands, with the exception of a superb new closing number – is emblematic of a band finding their groove.

Heading up to Cobalt to catch up with their Fringe stage, we’re delighted by an appearance from Pentecostal Party. As laser-focused a performance as she’s ever done, the unique arrangements of Dawn Bothwell’s songs – a kind of minimalistic, hauntological R&B – are outdone only by the sheer quality of the material itself. Photograph, Let’s Storm Heaven: there’s some truly remarkable writing at work.

Next up however is what might have been the day’s most talked about performer, Jennifer Walton. Although relatively new to live performance, her set is nothing less than intimidatingly complete and immersive already. Blending hyperactive, shapeshifting beats worthy of an Arca track with her own pitch-shifted vocals, her productions are by far the most startling and surprising thing to be heard all day. It’s no exaggeration to say that the crowd reaction at Cobalt was ecstatic: if you’re looking for the future, it’s right here.

There’s a few compelling options on which to end the nighty, but plumping for Eat Fast’s headline slot at The Tyne Bar proves to be the right choice. Celebrating the release of their second EP Immortal Kombat, this might be their finest showing to date. Their balance of rock brawn, pop melodies, lyrical intelligence and noise thrills is executed more deftly than ever, and at this point they’ve already amassed a formidable cache of material to draw from: the likes of Scrambled Egg, Public Display of Affection and Byker Drone all vie for the spotlight, but it’s the dizzying, mantra-like closer that really sticks in the memory. A joyous and vigorous end to a brilliant day of music.

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